I have a friend who owns an audio-visual company who was looking for SEO agency. He chooses not to mix business with pleasure, so rather than offering our services I offered to review the proposals from any SEO agencies and help him choose someone reputable…
… the results were shocking!
Firstly in the past we’ve touched upon the trustworthiness of some SEO agencies, as well as some using SEO as sabotage (and the results), but this is another great example showing the different approaches from a range of agencies.
The website in question is visually impressive, but it’s clear that the original website designer didn't know much about SEO as structure is all wrong, essentially having the whole site on a single page. This is why it’s important to get a web agency that can design, code and have experience in SEO, because in this case the owner, my friend, will need to pay to get his new website restructured. It could have been completely avoided by contacting a full-service digital agency.
The important fact to note here is, without addressing this one-page issue, the website is exceptionally unlikely to ever rank well in search engines.
SEO Agency 1 – Incompetent or lazy
Their approach is unfortunately what many SEO agencies do, and tarnish the industry.
They effectively ran the website through an automated checker, and relayed the results. We use SEO software like this, and it is very good at what it does, but it really does need to be taken with a pinch of salt and not necessarily taken literally. Sometimes it will show 100,000 errors which can worry a client but they can be easily fixed as it’s effectively one error repeated.
A good example was that this agency produced a keyword report of the position of his website in search engines. This is also a very useful tool, but needs to be used correctly. In this instance one of the keywords used his postcode as a keyword and yes, he’s first in Google for that, but would you search for a web design agency in Salisbury by entering “SP1 2LP”? Looking at keywords, they are mostly useless, and this is because they have been automated using the SEO software.
This company have run an automated report, summarised it making huge mistakes, and offered this as their strategy. They have missed the crucial point that the website needs a restructure as it’s on one page.
This means that either the company don’t know what they are doing and following a report without thinking, or they are just putting no effort or research in to their quote. Either way, a company I’d avoid.
SEO Agency 2 –Bright ideas
A quick investigation shows that this agency is relatively new; they have 2 staff and have been trading only a few months. This is reflected in their hourly rate.
The report that they have produced is handwritten, and they have picked up on the main issue and suggest a site restructure followed by a long strategy to build the site’s content based on keywords that they will research in to. Brilliant, this is exactly what needs to be done.
They haven’t said the keyword strategy that they will focus on (national vs local for example) which will be crucial in the SEO’s success, but this could be part of their ongoing costs and you wouldn’t necessarily expect this at this stage.
Picking at points here, they also have only very briefly mentioned the fact that the site restructure will impact on design. Paraphrasing they said “we may need to make a few changes to the website”. This is a complete understatement that the client didn’t realise, as it could really change their design. Whether they are doing it to win the tender, or have been naïve and underestimated the work involved, I don’t know.
I advised choosing this agency, but query the above two points before signing the contract, perhaps asking for a smaller paid-for project to mock up the new design and initially look at keywords.
Now for the final agency, I’ve saved the best for last…
SEO Agency 3 –What?!?
Alarm bells ran when I look at the cost breakdown and discovered how much time they are allocating for link building.
As a brief history, having other websites link to yours was historically a very good thing, very similar to a real life endorsement. However this was exploited with SEO agencies automating this have having thousands of links appear overnight. A few years ago Google release the Penguin update to their results, which blacklisted any site doing this.
As such, these days inbound links are good if, and only if, they come from high quality useful relevant websites, and paying for them is a massive no-no. A link on BBC’s technology page, for example would be amazing, but a link on a Russian directory website would do more harm than good.
SEO is split in to two terms, ‘white hat’ and ‘black hat’. White hat SEO is essentially optimising the site in a way Google (and other search engines like), and black hat SEO is essentially trying to cheat the system. Of course in real life it isn’t white or black, but a sliding scale, with search engines deciding where the cut-off point is, and crucially changing their minds.
The plus point of black hat SEO is you can get a lot of SEO quickly, the bad point is that if Google change their algorithm you can (and will) drop off of their results immediately without warning. Once this has happened it can be expensive and take a long time to rectify.
Getting back to the point, their proposal included a warning saying that if the client wasn’t to choose them, try to avoid white hat SEO agencies as they charge more and don’t generate many incoming links.
To the non-technical it’s hard to describe how bad this advice is, so here’s an analogy; imagine if your new accountant said this:
“Be very weary of other accountancy firms who offer tax benefits allowed by the HMRC, this would imply they don’t consider fraudulent techniques, and as such you could pay more tax”.
Would you use them? After all, they make your bank balance bigger, but once the revenue get hold of what you’re doing the responsibility would fall on you.
Well SEO is no different, it’s not their website that will plummet or disappear from rankings altogether, it’s yours!
So how many SEO companies are fraudulent? Well lots, this is a very small sample but does demonstrate one clued-up agency, one ignorant or lazy, and another offering truly shocking advice.
Where do we stand in this? Well we offer white hat SEO, and only do what we believe will work. If we don’t think something will produce a return on investment we’ll tell you, and since 2001 none of our work has incurred a penalty or been blocked by Google, because we do things properly!
Furthermore, if you’ve had a dodgy SEO agency in the past and find yourself penalised, blacklisted, or in trouble, let us know because we’ve successfully reversed this for many companies who are now clients. One springs to mind, we took them from virtually unlisted to positions 1 and 2 in literally days, just by quickly fixing a stupid error made by their last agency.
We are Webbed Feet, we do search engine optimisation... properly.